Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Frustrated Runner

Here it is, the final day of November and I’ve only blogged twice this month and my mileage is the lowest it’s been since I started running. Well I kicked the cold only to come back with an odd pain in my right foot. At first I just thought it was a cramp and then I just thought it was a bruise. I guess I was more hoping than believing it was either of those things. Two days before my relay race I went to the doctor and heard the two dreaded words… plantar fasciitis. On the positive side, he thought I caught it early enough that it was just bruised and not advanced. He told me to take ten days off of any activity that made it hurt after my relay race. I followed his advice and unfortunately that meant I had to miss the Santa Barbara Turkey Trot which I’d been looking forward to. Guess I’ll have to slip it on the list for next year.

For ten days I iced, stretched and exercised my foot. I didn’t run except for the couple times I forgot and ran down the hall or played with my brother’s puppies. I took the stairs slow at work and I basically babied my foot as much as possible. Monday was the end of my ten days and I went for an easy and slow 3.5 miles. My foot was unhappy by the time I got down the street. It wasn’t hurting, hurting so I finished the run. 

I love running, I really really do, but I don’t think I’ve ever done any activity that has made me this frustrated. I have the Santa to the Sea half marathon in less than 11 days. I’m doing it with or without foot pain. I’ve been looking forward to that event for over five months! The question is, do I rest or do I push through? My marathon is looming before me and at this point I’m almost back to where I started.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Santa Barbara International Marathon Relay Race

My first race is now in the record books and I got to run it for free, what a bonus! I have to admit, I was a nervous wreck the night before. Not sure why… I wasn’t out to win or set any records, I was just out there to have fun with some coworkers.

Saturday, November 12 2011, the Santa Barbara International Marathon Relay Race. I got to my exchange zone 40 minutes early and I knew that almost down to the second. I’m a computer programmer and my office consists of half programmers and half analysts. We are very mathy people. Of the four on the relay team, three of us made mathematical predictions of when each leg would finish. We based our predictions off training data we had been exchanging (like I said, mathy people).

My leg was the third leg, only listed as 4 miles long, but I already knew from my practice runs it is actually 4.5. I jogged around trying to loosen up my nervous tight muscles, but it just didn’t seem to be working. My breathing was a mess, my form felt off and I was tired from the restless night before. My parents had tagged along to cheer on the runners and to crew for me. Mom had her loud cowbell and was banging it like mad every time a runner came by. Daddio was giving me his best last minute advice.

As the predicted time approached, I moved closer to the exchange zone, jogging easy loops up and down a short street. Finally, finally I started to relax. When my coworker came barreling in, out of breath and looking spent, I was ready. I ripped the time chip off his ankle like it was nothing, but fumbled to wrap it around my own leg. I felt like it took ages. Later, looking at my Garmin Forerunner data, it appears that the exchange took approximately 15 seconds. As soon as it was secure, I took off with the passing marathoners. Not even two blocks down the street, I glanced down at my Forerunner to discover we were at a 7:15 pace, way faster then I can maintain, so I dropped back letting them pass. A girl I later started to refer to as blue shirt was probably about 50 yards ahead of me, another relay runner that had started shortly before me. I made it my goal to catch her, but starting out, her pace was too ambitious for me, so I was determined to keep her in sight. In order to do that, I was moving along at about an 8:30 pace. My predicted pace for the race was around 9:30.

A mile into the race, I came across my Dad near an aid station. He yelled at me “Catch them, catch them”, I wanted to yell “Do you have any idea what pace I’m doing!?!” My Dad will never tell anyone to slow down when racing. Somehow I found a little more speed and blue shirt was a little closer.

I'm so fast, I'm blurry ;)
I kept my pace between 8:30 and 9:00, my heart was pounding in my chest. Marathoners zoomed past me, only to have me run past them later down the route as they started to wear out. Blue shirt started to slow down around 2.5 miles and I sped up, almost disappointed when I finally passed her. I latched onto another relay racer further up and soon overtook her, she looked like she was starting to struggle. One and a half miles to go and I was starting to feel the same way. I’ve never run that fast for that long and my body was reminding me. I just kept telling myself, you have to finish strong, don’t let all the work you did at the beginning get erased now. The Magnificent Seven theme song started playing on my ipod and I found a little speed. I played tag with a marathoner who seemed paranoid the way she kept looking back at me before I finally left her behind. I caught another relay racer without realizing it till I was passing.

The last mile seemed like it was never going to end. Starting to feel parched, I grabbed some water out of the outstretched hand of a volunteer. I knew if I slowed down, I wouldn’t be able to find my groove again, so for the first time, I tried drinking while running. Most of it went down my front, but some of it did find its way into my mouth. Down the path I smiled at a lady cheering us on and she exclaimed “I wish I was still smiling at 16 miles,” I wanted to respond, “Me too”, but the moment was passed.  

I caught an afro haired marathoner, who was looking like he was starting to hit the wall. He sped up as I came by and we paced each other for about a quarter of a mile. I encouraged him to keep it up and we chatted about marathons. It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off my body. As I came around my final corner, I could see my exchange zone ahead, so I took off, leaving him behind without saying goodbye. I hope he found his second wind and finished strong! Liz, my teammate, shouted out my name and I somehow found myself sprinting. And then it was over, Liz took over from there. I stumbled out of the way and tried to wrap my mind around the fact I was done.

I later met my teammates at the finish line, where Liz finished strong and all our predictions were blown away. We finished with an overall time of 3:30:37, beating our team’s previous record by over a minute and coming in 12th out of 63. My average pace came out to be 8:47, nothing to write home about, but a huge personal accomplishment for me.  

It was a beautiful day!

Overall, I was extremely happy with the race. It seemed well organized and well staffed. There were tons of volunteers, that all did a great job. I can’t thank them enough! I wish I could do a more thorough report, but I only saw a small window of the race and that small window went down without a hitch. 

My bib and finisher's medal on my desk at work

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feeling Good, Feeling Strong, Feeling Excited

Three weeks ago today I started getting sick and today… today I started feeling better. I’ve been chugging along, getting my work done in the office and getting short runs done in the evenings. Not pushing myself, but also not throwing my hands up in defeat. The Santa Barbara International Marathon Relay race is this Saturday, so I knew I had to get back on track sooner rather than later.

Slowly, my short runs have gotten faster, each one just slightly better than the one before. I’m no where near what I was doing before the trip, but I’ve definitely won some ground back. As the congestion is my chest gets better, so does my breathing. Last Saturday I did a practice run of my leg of the race and it went relatively well. It’s an easy leg, only 4.5 miles and very level. When I had first been assigned this leg, I had been disappointed in getting such a short distance and now I’m thankful for it. It’s the perfect distance for where my body is at this point in time.

I went for my run today and decided for the first time since I got home, to do some fartleks. As soon as I kicked up the speed, I felt amazing. My breathing was lining up, I wasn’t coughing or clearing my throat, I just felt good. I feel good! Instead of dreading this race, I’m looking forward to it again!

Wish me luck! I’ll do a race report this weekend.